Years ago, a Golf Writer referred to Sebring, Florida’s Citrus Golf Trail as the “Value Golf Capital of America.” After all, where else can you play golf in the middle of winter without breaking the bank? Now, with the recent announcement of the Citrus Golf Trail Open scheduled for December 2nd – 5th 2021, Sebring is going to put amateur golf on the map in the Sunshine State.
If you’re not familiar with large-scale amateur golf tournaments like the ones held each year in Mesquite, NV, and Myrtle Beach, SC you’re in for a treat. These events are open to amateur men and women and are typically played over a 3 or 4-day period, at a different course each day. There are currently six courses that comprise the Citrus Golf Trail: Pinecrest Golf Club, Sebring Municipal Golf Course, River Greens Golf Course, Sebring International Resort, and the two layouts at Sun ‘N Lake, Deer Run, and Turtle Run. Your entry fee typically includes greens fees, a golf cart, a swag bag, and admission to the nightly party. The tournament is an opportunity for Sebring to showcase the area’s rich golf history and traditions.
Sebring’s golf history can be traced back to the 1920s. Pinecrest Golf Club was built by Donald Ross in 1926 and was the perfect amenity for the Pinecrest Hotel and Resort on Lake Lotela. Professional golfers discovered Pinecrest in the late 1950s, and Pinecrest hosted the first televised PGA TOUR event, The World Championship of Golf. The wide fairways and straight holes that lead to eighteen, elevated greens give away the fact that this is a Donald Ross design. Many holes feature false fronts and fall off on all sides. In true Ross fashion, a couple of the tee boxes don’t point towards where you need to hit the ball off the tee.
Another area course with roots to the 1920s is Sebring Municipal Golf Course. Unlike most municipal golf courses, Sebring Municipal is in tremendous shape. Fairways are lush, bunkers are in great shape with lots of sand and the greens roll true. Sebring Municipal was built in 1928 and is about as close to an “old Florida course” as you can get. The course has its fair share of water, sand, and palm trees. The course is routed such that a couple of the par 4 holes take driver out of the hands of most players off the tee and force all players to think their way around the course rather than just bang away.
River Greens Golf Course is the area’s most unique course. River Greens was originally designed by golf architect Jack Kidwell back in 1969 and is now owned by Rodney Davis who, along with his partner Jeff Harstine, owns a golf construction company. Over the years, Davis has added a few tweaks here and there. The course is always in tremendous shape and the TifEagle greens are amazing. They look great and roll fast and true. Water comes into play on about half the holes. Several of the water hazards are not visible and, unless you know where they are, they can wreak havoc with what you thought was a great shot.
The Deer Run Course at Sun “N Lake is considered the tougher of the two. It was originally designed by golf architect Don Dyer and opened for play in 1976; in 2003 Lakeland Florid golf course architect Ron Garl redesigned the course, including the conversion of Number 18 to an island green par three with. Each year this championship layout plays host to qualifiers for the Web.com Tour, the Latin America Tour, and the Canadian Tour.
The par 72 Turtle Run Course was designed by Charles Ankrom and opened in 1999. Turtle Run is that it is built in the middle of a Scrub Jay preservation area and provides a sanctuary for this protected species as well as a beautiful setting for the golf course. Turtle Run is 600 yards shorter than its sister course and its length is not going to overpower the majority of golfers. The golf course boasts brains over brawn and depending on the tees you choose, your driver may not be the best option off the tee.
The Sebring International Golf Resort may very well be the highlight of the entire tournament. Formerly known as Spring Lake Golf Resort, the property is undergoing a complete makeover at the hands of Helmut Wyzisk III, or H3 as he prefers to be called. Gone is the world’s largest putting green and the 800-yad par 6 on Panther Run. The property which once boasted 45 holes of golf is being transformed into a world-class golf resort with a soon-to-be-built 27-hole layout which includes reusing previously designed holes and creating some new designs, and “The 12,” an exciting and challenging 12-hole layout with no hole over 150 yards. Stay tuned for more information on Sebring International!
The Citrus Golf Trail Open is sure to be a hit and attract golfers from all over the US and Canada. Registration for the inaugural event will begin on January 1st, 2021. For more information visit www.cirtusgolftrail.com.